Ask the Nutritionist

Sous Chef Junior

Do your kids love watching “Top Chef Junior”? Put them to work in the kitchen. Here’s Mom Made’s list of recommended kitchen tasks by age.

If you love quality food as much as we do here at Mom Made, it only makes sense to get the kiddos involved in the kitchen! We believe in starting kids while they're young. It's genuine quality time while being productive in the kitchen. 

We encourage you to challenge your children to help with more than dessert. The more involved they are from a young age, the more they will learn to appreciate the joy of cooking and the link to healthy eating. 

Keep in mind - you know your kids way better than we do! Feel free to follow these age guidelines as you feel necessary. 

3-4 Years Old

  • Use cookie cutters

  • Rinse produce

  • Juice citrus fruit

  • Tear lettuce

  • Chop herbs (with much supervision if ready)

  • Cup soft fruits and vegetables (with much supervision if ready)

5-7 Years Old

  • Crack eggs

  • Form patties and meatballs

  • De-seed peppers (be sure to use gloves for hot peppers!)

  • Chop vegetables

  • Grease pans

  • Garnish dishes

  • Pour sauce

  • Use measuring spoons and cups

  • Shuck corn

  • Use microwave

  • Peel vegetables

8-10 Years Old

  • Use stove (to prepare eggs and other simple meals)

  • Use pizza cutter

  • Open can with can opener

  • Beat eggs

  • Pound chicken

  • Skewer food

  • Slice bread

10-12 Years Old

  • Boil pasta

  • Search for and follow simple recipes

  • Use oven

  • Use chef's knife

  • Simmer ingredients on stove-top

  • Make dressings

  • Cook a full meal!

If you're super confident in your new sous chef, give them the responsibility to plan and cook a full meal! You can relax in the living room, and enjoy having dinner made for you for a change. Regardless how involved your child was in their cooking responsibilities, they will come to the table proud of their participation and ready to try their creation.

Bon appetit!

 

Ask the Nutritionist: Help! My Son Won't Eat Veggies!

My 7 year old son eats NO veggies, and hasn't since he threw up all his peas and his dinner in Kindergarten. I tried smoothies, raw carrots and edamame, which he refused and then puked up. It's all drama and a gag reflex, and incredibly hard not to be so mad, yell, etc. I obviously did something wrong when he was little, and now I am stuck. Any book suggestions, or advice would be much appreciated : ) Thank you!

I *totally* know what you mean! When my daughter was around 6 or 7 months old, a well-meaning babysitter gave her spoonful after spoonful of avocado (one of the few solid foods I had introduced to her at that time) until she threw them up. For a long time, she wouldn’t touch avocados. But she did eat other vegetables and fruits and generally had a balanced diet so I didn’t push it.

My best advice to you is: relax. What your son is doing is totally normal for kids his age. It doesn’t sound as though he has any swallowing problems, since you’ve introduced all kinds of tastes and textures, and it’s only vegetables he’s refusing. If you really want to be sure you can ask your MD for a referral to a therapist specializing in swallowing issues. What you have here is a classic case of a power struggle. The more you pressure, the more he will rebel, and the more he rebels the more frustrated you get…and the result is an out-of-control spiral.

Here’s how to get you and your family back on track: know your roles. According to Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibilities (www.ellynsatter.com), it is a parent’s job to provide what, when and where to eat. It is the child’s job to decide how much and – yes – whether to eat.  That is all. As a parent, don’t pressure, cajole, beg, barter or fight. Don’t give in to demands to fix something else just so he’ll eat something, nor give a snack later when he might be hungry after forgoing a meal. Calmly serve a plate, keep your eyes on your own plate, and when dinner is over, clear the plates.

Easier said than done, I know. But bite your tongue, stay strong, and trust that he will go back to exploring and perhaps accepting vegetables as part of his diet. According to experts, it takes anywhere from 8-20 exposures to a food before a person accepts it (notice that I didn’t say “like” it – but rather tries it and makes a firm decision about whether the food is something they will eat or something they truly do not like). Other tips that help increase acceptance of a food:

  • Serve the same food in different ways. Perhaps he hates raw baby carrots but likes cooked round carrot slices, or julienned carrots in salads.
  • Serve it with something he likes. Maybe mashed potatoes aren’t so bad when they’re on a plate next to slices of lean flank steak.
  • Be liberal with toppings, sauces and sides. Broccoli alone may be “meh” to your son, but topped with melted 2% cheddar cheese or dipped in ranch dressing – yeah!
  • Be a role model yourself. All of your efforts may be thwarted if your spouse or another person your son looks up to refuses to eat his or her vegetables – or worse – badmouths vegetables and calls them “yucky.”

I personally am opposed to “hiding” vegetables in foods, since it only reinforces the notion that vegetables need to be endured and not enjoyed. But if you’re really concerned about the quality of your child’s diet, and if he isn’t getting adequate vitamins and fiber from fruits or other healthy foods, then incorporating vegetables into cooked foods is an OK option. One of the reasons I like Mom Made Foods is that while the veggies are baked into the munchies and sides, you can also see the individual veggies (the peas in the Cheesy Mac) and taste the distinct flavors (like celery in the Turkey Meatballs).

For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing all the right things by being so concerned about your son’s health and nutrition!

If you have a question for our nutritionist, please contact us. 

Ask The Nutritionist: How Much Protein?

How much dairy do toddlers really need? And is meat protein really more efficient than vegetarian protein?

Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese provide essential nutrients that a growing child needs, including bone-building calcium and high-quality protein. Fluid milk is also an excellent source of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium - not to mention a bunch of other health benefits that are still being discovered! (Yogurt and cheese typically don't provide much if any vitamin D, FYI). Toddlers need about 2 cups (16 fl oz) of milk/dairy per day. Now, that doesn't mean 16 ounces of cheese! For USDA recommended "cup equivalents" of dairy products, click here. Between ages 1-2, dairy should be full-fat (or whole milk), since the milkfat is needed for growth and brain development. After the child's second birthday, it's a generally a good idea to switch to lowfat (1%) or nonfat milk.

Regarding protein, meat (or animal-sourced) protein is a more "complete" protein compared to proteins found in vegetables. However, with the right mix of plant proteins, you can still get the "complete" package that you might get from an animal product. For example, eating beans and rice together gives you all the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) for a "complete" protein. Also, don't forget that milk comes from an animal - a cow - so it, too, is a "complete" protein.

Our pediatrician said our daughter needed vegetarian protein in every meal to match meat protein given 3xs/wk. Is that right?

Let me start with the caveat that my comments here are not meant to be medical advice nor displace recommendations or treatments from your personal health care provider. With that aside, I guess I'm not quite understanding the issue. Yes, protein should comprise a portion (about one-quarter) of each meal, but there's no nutritional reason to limit meat as a protein source to 3x/week. In fact, lean meats are a great source not only of protein but of heme iron, or the type of iron that's best absorbed by the body. That said, there are some great vegetarian proteins that are also a good source of iron, such as beans, lentils, spinach, dried fruit, almonds, and iron-fortified cereal. For non-vegan vegetarians, egg yolks are also a great source of iron. Tip: vitamin C helps aid in iron absorption, so if you're taking an iron supplement or eating a plant source of iron such as beans, take it with a cup of orange juice or some strawberries.

If you have a question for our nutritionist, please contact us.

Ask the Nutritionist: Is it Unhealthy for My Son to Eat Eggs Every Day?

Organic brown eggs

“My 9 year old son likes to eat the exact same breakfast every day: scrambled eggs with cheese rolled in a tortilla. Some weeks he’s been eating 10+ eggs! Should we be worried about the cholesterol in all those eggs? My son is very active, tall for his age and in the 60th percentile for weight. Thanks! Dad of 3 boys, Arlington, VA.”

The poor egg! Eggs have had some bad PR over the past several years because of how much cholesterol they contain. However, the cholesterol you eat doesn't have as much an effect on your cholesterol in your blood - for that, you really ought to limit saturated fat. So, I'd be less concerned about the eggs than I would the cheese in his tortilla (though cheese does provide calcium that growing kids need as well). Eggs are a terrific source of high-quality protein, and also provide beneficial vitamins and nutrients that kids especially need, such as vitamin D, choline and selenium. And, they have very low levels of fat, including saturated fat. In fact, several research studies indicate that a diet including 1-2 eggs per day doesn't have a major impact on heart disease risk. As long as the rest of his daily diet is varied, includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, I wouldn't worry about his current breakfast of choice.

Do you have a question?  Please send an email to healthy@mommadefoods.com  and I’ll answer it soon.